Dotan Saguy – Nowhere to Go but Everywhere

Review by Melanie Chapman

During these past few months of the pandemic, haven’t we each found ourselves staring out windows, looking for signs of life, and longing to travel near and far once again? 

Dotan Saguy’s newest work Nowhere to Go but Everywhere arrives at a perfect time. Even if the book’s title, taken from a Jack Keroac quote, does not seem familiar, the cover image of two young children staring up and out of windows will immediately draw the viewer in to Saguy’s intimate portrait of lives lived on the road.

Celebrated for his previous book Venice Beach (a dynamic collection of black and white images documenting the creep of gentrification along a sandy strip of Southern California coastline) Saguy revisits some of the same themes in his new work, but invests more deeply in one specific family and in so doing, offers the viewer an understanding of what it means to trust someone else’s vision and the price of freedom.

A chance encounter with some “vehicle dwellers” on their first day in Los Angeles led Saguy to meet Ismael and Greice Reis and their three kids. Having left their home in Brazil two years earlier in search of the American dream, they soon realized the pursuit of material comforts was tearing them apart. Facing challenges such as financial uncertainty and loss of faith, the Reis family chose to both run away and pull themselves closer together. They bought a small school bus and converted it into their home on wheels. 

Van-life Instagram posing this is not. During their ten-month stay in Los Angeles, they face economic uncertainty, language barriers, engine problems, and a visit from a Social Services officer investigating the welfare of the kids. Saguy documents all this and more with the keen eye of a gifted photographer and the sensitivity of a trusted friend.

An unconventional book about unconventional people, this new limited Artist edition (1,000) hardcover publication from Kehrer Verlag may take a moment to adjust to. Full-bleed images pull the viewer in to the tight environment shared by five people. But to this reviewer, the design choice to have most images interrupted by the center binding does not serve Saguy’s artistry and is the one criticism with this otherwise handsome photobook. 

Saguy’s consistent gift with black and white is complimented through his use of Leica M camera equipment, as a special notation at the back of the book makes sure to point out. The 75 images that chronicle their cramped quarters and expansive lives are matte-printed with the deep tonality that those familiar with previous publications of Saguy’s work would come to expect. Interspersed among these images are colorful pages 2/3rds the size, revealing closeup patterns of clothing they sell and the tapestries which decorate and separate their living space. Fragments of conversations are printed large in a bold text. Upon turning those pages, one discovers stories of the Reis family’s beginnings in Brazil; the crumbling of their Mormon beliefs, and the reasons why they have chosen to home-school their children while exploring the United States. 

The more one spends time with this family and with this beautiful poem of a book, the less peculiar and more appealing all of these choices will seem.

Though Los Angeles may now be in their rear-view mirror, the Reis family and Dotay Saguy’s beautiful new book Nowhere to Go but Everywhere should stay with you for years to come.

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Dotan Saguy’s photobook previously featured on PhotoBook Journal; Venice Beach

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Nowhere to Go but Everywhere, Dotan Saguy

Photographer: Dotan Saguy, born in Israel; raised in Paris; lives in Los Angeles, California

Publisher: Kehrer Heidelberg Berlin, Germany; copyright 2020

Text: Dotan Saguy, and Ismael and Greice Reis

Language: English

Hardback with photograph and Pattern; 170 pages, non-paginated; sewn; edition of 1,000, printed and bound in Germany

Photobook Designer: Hannah Feldmeier

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Articles & photographs published on PhotoBook Journal may not be reproduced without the permission of the PhotoBook Journal staff and the photographer(s).

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